The Young Marines forms partnership with Madison Rising, America’s most patriotic rock band
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The Young Marines, a national youth organization, announces a new partnership with Madison Rising, America’s most patriotic rock band. The partnership will kick off as Madison Rising embarks on the Concerned Veterans for America’s 23-city Defend Free
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Young Marines scale Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima
Friday, March 20, 2015
Today, 11 youth members of the Young Marines are accompanying 49 veterans on a plane trip from Guam to Iwo Jima as part of the annual “Reunion of Honor.”
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Eleven Young Marines join American and Japanese veterans for the annual ‘Reunion of Honor’ on Guam and Iwo Jima
Monday, March 16, 2015
Eleven youth members of the Young Marines are travelling to Guam and Iwo Jima for the annual “Reunion of Honor” which takes place March 16 – 23, 2015.
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World War II vets headed back to Iwo Jima, Young Marines make it possible
Friday, January 30, 2015
Medal of Honor recipient Herschel “Woody” Williams will be among the 15 World War II veterans headed back to Iwo Jima next month, and he has the Young Marines to thank for it.
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Young Marines Names Division Young Marines of the Year
Thursday, January 29, 2015
The Young Marines youth organization has named six division winners of one of its most prestigious awards - the “Division Young Marine of the Year.”
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Two Young Marines awarded Jimmie Trimble Scholarship
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Young Marines SgtMaj Alex Loria of Chantilly, VA, and Young Marines GySgt Brittany Hannah of Miami, FL, are the recipients of the Young Marines’ Jimmie Trimble Scholarship Award.
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Young Marines units from across the nation traveled to Hawaii for 73rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
One hundred forty one youth members of the Young Marines from nine states traveled to Hawaii to participate in the 73rd anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration.
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Red Carpet Event for the Young Marines Documentary Premiere Followed by PBS Airing in KY
Friday, October 31, 2014
The national premiere of a 30-minute documentary film, “Generations of Honor: A Year with the Young Marines”, will take place at the historic Kentucky Theatre. The film will air on PBS in KY on Veteran’s Day.
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Young Marines Alumni Association is Launched
Monday, October 27, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization now has an Alumni Association for its more than 60,000 former members. Former YM SgtMajor Edgar Huff, who was the 2004 National Young Marine of the Year, has been named executive director of the new association.
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Young Marines Wins its 6th Dept. of Defense Award for Anti-Drug Education
Monday, October 20, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization’s Drug Demand Reduction Program is the winner of the 2014 Annual Fulcrum Shield Award for Excellence in Youth Anti-Drug Education.
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GLOCK donates $50,000 to the Young Marines at the 2014 AUSA Annual Meeting
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The Young Marines received a $50,000 donation from GLOCK on Monday, Oct. 13, at the Association of United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Expo.
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American Legion Child Welfare Foundation Recipients Share Success of Grant
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Joe Lusignan, Deputy Director, West Coast Operations of the Young Marines, discusses "Closing the gate on Drugs" Drug Demand Reduction kits with American Legion family members during the eighth annual Children & Youth Conference in Indianapolis.
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223 Young Marines meet World War II Navajo Code Talkers
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Two hundred twenty three members of the Young Marines including registered adult leaders traveled to Window Rock, AZ, to be part of Navajo Code Talkers Day which was Thursday, Aug. 14. Seventeen veteran Navajo Code Talkers attended.
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Scott Riley of the Columbus Young Marines named ‘National Adult Volunteer of the Year’
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization has named Scott Riley the “National Adult Volunteer of the Year” at the annual Adult Leaders Conference held in Washington D.C. Riley is the Unit Commander of Columbus Young Marines from Division 5 located in Colu
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Young Marines announces ‘National Unit of the Year’ - Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Unit from Knoxville, TN
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization announced the “National Unit of the Year” – Division Three’s Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Unit in Knoxville, TN, under the command of Virgil L. Young, Jr.
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National Executive Director and CEO Mike Kessler announces future retirement from the Young Marines
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Mike Kessler, National Executive Director and CEO of the Young Marines, announces his retirement which will take place in late 2015.
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The Young Marines unveil a new and expanded Drug Demand Reduction Program: ‘Closing the Gate on Drugs’
Monday, July 14, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization took its drug demand reduction efforts to the next level by launching a new program titled, “Closing the Gate on Drugs.” The program focuses on the drugs that our youth are exposed to early and most often - the ga
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The DEA and Young Marines present Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena Awards to six units
Monday, June 16, 2014
The DEA and Young Marines announce Enrique "Kiki" Camarena Award winners. The award honors six units, one award per division, for drug demand reduction efforts through community education and peer-to-peer role modeling.
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Blake DeWeese named ‘National Young Marine of the Year’
Friday, June 13, 2014
The Young Marines youth organization announced the 2014 - 2015 “National Young Marine of the Year” – YM SgtMaj Blake W. DeWeese, 18, of Beaverton, OR. As National Young Marine of the Year, DeWeese will travel throughout the country representing the Y
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Young Marines grateful for a grant from American Legion Child Welfare Foundation
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation has provided a $90,000 grant to the Young Marines youth organization for the purpose of creating printed materials to use in its campaigns to reduce the demand for drugs through education.
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National Executive Director and CEO Mike Kessler announces future retirement from the Young Marines
Thursday, August 07, 2014

Mike KesslerMike Kessler, 63, National Executive Director and CEO of the Young Marines, announced his retirement which will take place in late 2015. The Young Marines is an education and service program with 11,000 youth members – age eight through high school - in the U.S. and overseas.

“We’re looking for a successor for Mike, not a replacement,” said William Walker, chairman of the search committee and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. “He is truly exceptional; therefore irreplaceable. Because of that, finding a successor will take time, which is why we’re announcing his retirement so early.”

According to Bill Smith, Chairman of the Young Marines Board of Directors, the modern Young Marines started with Kessler who was hired in 1999. 

“Mike has a great understanding of the congressional process which is vital,” Smith said. “He also has intellect, character, confidence, charisma, and experience to lead the Young Marines organization. We’re looking for a successor who will have passion for our mission but who will also understand the corporate mission and business.”

Kessler has become an expert on the business side or the organization including fiduciary accountability, an understanding of non-profit law, the value of strategic planning, operational oversight, board development, employee relations and human resource management.

“This is not just a Ma-‘n-Pa youth program,” Kessler said. “The Young Marines is a business, and failure to understand that could be very problematic. Besides the business side, I had the great pleasure to work with our many adult volunteers who play a vital role in the organization.”

Points of pride

Kessler says he’s extremely proud of the recognition the Young Marines received from the Department of Defense in receiving five Fulcrum Shield Awards for "excellence in youth anti-drug education."

He is also pleased with the role the Young Marines have taken as the leader in youth recognition of America’s veterans. Under his guidance and leadership, the Young Marines have become active in the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in Hawaii, National Memorial Day events and Veteran’s Day each November.

In addition, Kessler originated the annual trip to Guam and Iwo Jima and the trips to meet the Navajo Code Talkers in Window Rock, AZ, and help them commemorate Navajo Code Talker Day.

Other high points include five Telly Awards for video production and the creation of the Young Marines News Network. The Young Marines participate in an annual non-governmental organization conference held at the United Nations in New York City.

Kessler is in the process of the formal establishment of the Young Marines Alumni Association and the Young Marines National Foundation. Another area of pride is the creation of the Congressional Military Youth Caucus which is a joint venture between the Young Marines and the National Naval Sea Cadets.

“In June, 2014, we released a new campaign called ‘Closing the Gate on Drugs,’” Kessler said. “With a generous grant from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, we were able to create a detailed anti-drug campaign kit that is being sent to all 300 units across the country.”

As for the youth members of the Young Marines, Kessler loves them and looks forward to those rare moments when he’s around them. They re-charge his batteries.

“My greatest pride is observing how well the young people do after they leave the program,” he said.

Young Marines range in age from eight through the completion of high school. Kessler, his staff and thousands of volunteers work to give every Young Marine the chance to excel and become confident, respectful and self-starting young adults.

Seattle roots

Kessler grew up north of Seattle in Mountlake Terrace, WA. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Washington, Seattle. His master’s degree is in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the College of Naval Warfare, Newport, RI.

He received a NROTC Scholarship and chose the Marine Corps option in 1970. In June, 1973, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Most of Kessler’s military career was spent on the West Coast and in the Pacific Theater. He was deployed around the world and spent a great deal of time in the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and eastern Africa.

Currently, Kessler and his wife Kimberly live in Falls Church, VA. Once retired, they will move back to their roots in Snohomish County, WA, to be closer to their six adult children and five grandchildren.

“The Board of Directors will let me move, but they are going to keep a tight leash on me for the next couple of years,” he said. “There have been many changes to this program during my tenure, so I will remain in a consultant capacity for a time following the announcement of the next CEO.”

“He has done it all, and he is the center of gravity for the organization,” William Walker said. “It will be critical to have the right person step in.”

The Young Marines is a national non-profit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline, so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Since the Young Marines' humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to over 300 units with 11,000 youth and 3,000 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan and affiliates in a host of other countries.

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Media Contact: Andy Richardson
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